Councillors vote to take a stand on drugs and begging

Gerald Vernon-Jackson at the election count this month Picture: Ian Hargreaves (180470-5)

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AGGRESSIVE begging, substance abuse and anti-social behaviour are all being tackled in Gosport town centre.

The borough council last night agreed to introduce a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) in the town.

Gosport’s Town ward makes up most of the targeted area, with parts of Elson and Leesland also included.

A PSPO will prohibit aggressive begging, substance abuse and other anti-social behaviour in the town centre and will see PCSOs given additional powers to tackle the issues.

It was recently revealed that Gosport also has the highest rate of drug-related deaths in the south coast.

At a council meeting, councillors agreed with the decision.

Cllr Dennis Wright said: ‘While some of us may have some sympathy with these people who find themselves homeless, we’ve done everything we can to help.

‘There are far deeper problems and I’m not convinced that they are getting all the help they can, but we have to consider the people that we represent. There are people scared of going into the town centre because of what’s been going on.’

Cllr Stephen Philpott said: ‘I think a lot of people are going to be pleased and relieved by this, but the challenge will be to deliver it.

‘It is going to be down to the people on the ground to do this – the sorts of behaviour that I have been hearing about, I never thought I would see.

‘They have absolutely no place in our community and it’s about time we stood up to this.

‘It is only those who are unreasonably refusing help who will have their behaviour challenged, so I don’t think we could have done this any better.’

Councillors are now discussing the idea of implementing the PSPO throughout the town.

Cllr Graham Burgess, who chaired the meeting, said: ‘This is an interim measure to get the PSPO in place and we will go from there.’

Cllr June Cully said: ‘It is vital that we have these powers to protect our members of the public and I think the need to go out across the borough is probably going to prove to be necessary.’

Councillors voted unanimously in favour of introducing the PSPO, which will come into force on November 17.